Worship Scattered

“What is ‘worship scattered?’  That seems like a strange term!”  I’m glad you asked…when Jesus came, he set up a new way to worship.  He told us that we would worship in both spirit and truth.  Part of what that meant was that worship is scattered throughout the life of all christians in the world.  And the CRAZY thing is, this is way worship was supposed to be back in THE BEGINNING!

When Adam and Eve were created, they lived in the Garden of Eden and God would hang out with them.  Adam would name some animals and work in the garden with Eve and then they would take a walk with God in the cool of the day.  But that all fell apart once sin entered the world…because of sin, worship was restricted to a certain mountain top with certain prayers and certain sacrifices.

Jesus lived, died, rose again and now tells us to boldly enter God’s presence (Hebrews 4).  He tells us that we are united with God through his work on cross.  Now our whole lives are lived as priests out in the world.

So for you today, it means that everything you do can be an act of worship.  Are you serving the poor in another country?  Are you teaching kids at church or in school?  Are you frying donuts at a diner or helping with a car-pool?  It can all be offered up to God as a way to serve him and others.

This shows me the extravagance of God’s grace!  ALL of our messy lives are now transformed into worship.  As we sing, “Beauty for ashes / Your name is matchless”!  Worship is no longer restricted to a certain mountain top or certain prayers or certain sacrifices.  Worship is about a God-man.  His name is Jesus.

That is “worship scattered”.


Thanks to Mike Cosper for the term “worship scattered” and Chapter 5 of his book, Rhythms of Grace.  It’s an excellent read.  I highly recommend it!


Down & Dirty Theology: Giving Death the Finger

Some of you might remember that I wrote about Troy back in December.  At the time, he was facing terminal cancer.  At the time I wrote,

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else.  He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

I also wrote,

I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

Troy died this week and went to be with Jesus in eternity.  As I reflected on Troy’s life and how to worship in this wilderness, I was reminded of something else I wrote, after my son died.  I want to share it with you as we remember the testimony of Troy Mann and follow his example in walking with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death…


Life moves on.  I get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time.  I eat my cereal and drive to work just like everyone else.  As I watch the faces of the other drivers, I wonder, “What they are thinking about?”.

The death of a loved one changes us in too many ways to count.  And now as I look again at the faces of the people driving past me on the way work, I realize at least one thing my son’s death has enabled me to do…

It enables me to give death “the finger”.

You might be shocked that I would say that.  But stay with me…at my son’s funeral, we sang Matt Mahr’s song, “Christ is Risen”.  The bridge is taken directly from Paul in 1 Corinthians where he paraphrases Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14.  He writes about the resurrection…



As we sang, Sara and I raised our hands to worship the Lord of Life, but as we did that, I instinctively turned my open hand into a fist.  I wasn’t just praising God, I was insulting sin and death that had taken our son.

I was giving death the finger.

Death might think that it took my son forever.  Death might think that it took Troy forever, but we know that because of Jesus this is temporary.  And as we live now, we are following Paul’s lead in defiantly living in the face of death with tears in our eyes.  Think about it…

Where is death’s power to hurt us?  We believers are dead and then we come back to live again forever.  We are out of death’s reach.  What kind of heat is it packing now?  We can trash-talk it’s power and give the finger to it’s wrath.  And the grave?!?!?! Where is it’s victory?  We used to be it’s prisoners, but now the doors are blown open.  The locks and dead-bolts have been broken.  Our chains are thrown off.  Death has died and captivity is now captive.

I still get up in the morning and put my pants on, one leg at a time, just like the other drivers on their way to work every day.  But for me, for us, we can now give death the finger.

New Song: One Day (When We All Get to Heaven)

Have you suffered a major illness?  Have you lost someone you love?  I have.  And the older I get, the more I look forward to the glory of Heaven with Jesus.

This weekend we are learning a new/old song about heaven.  It’s based on the old hymn, “When We All Get to Heaven”.  The original song was written by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt.  This amazing woman was a school teacher in Philadelphia and a christian volunteer who was deeply devoted to teaching the Bible to kids.  Eliza’s goal in writing her songs was to reach children and teach them the basic truths of the gospel.  She also enjoyed a long personal friendship with Fanny Crosby, another famous worship song writer.  The new song we are learning was recorded by Matt Redman with new verses.

But before we jump in, a few opening thoughts about heaven…

First, Heaven is the place where God dwells and the Jesus is preparing for us.  However, it’s also good to remember that the point of heaven is not that we “get out of here”, but that God brings his rule and reign (heaven) down to us in the new heavens and the new earth.

Secondly, there are two major views about what happens in heaven.  1. We know that we will have eternity to worship/contemplate/learn more and more about our infinite God.  2. We will be reunited with all believers throughout history without any sin or death.  These are both true, but I’d like to add a third thing we know about heaven.  3. Heaven will be all of that and more…we will be face to face with God!

Lastly, I think it’s important to remember that this song is sung by believers and to believers.  We still hold that heaven is a place for believers and that salvation is through the work of Christ alone and his grace and mercy to us as sinners.

Alright, enough talking…let’s jump in…We start at the end of time.  That’s right, the first verse comes from Revelation.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” -21:4

[Verse 1]
One day You’ll make everything new, Jesus
One day You will bind every wound
The former things shall all pass away
No more tears

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. -1 Corinthians 13:12b

[Verse 2]
One day You’ll make sense of it all, Jesus
One day every question resolved
Every anxious thought left behind
No more fear

And then we come to heaven and the chorus that most of us have heard before.  It comes from 1 Corinthians and Revelation.  I love the added heading in the ESV version before Revelation 19.  It reminds us that all believers will be “Rejoicing in Heaven” because of the salvation victory of Jesus over sin and death.

[Rejoicing in Heaven] After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… -19:1

Then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

…thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Corinthians 15:54-56a

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory

Onto the next two verses.  Verse 3 refers to the book of 1 Corinthians…

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. -1 Corinthians 13:12a

 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  -1 Corinthians 15:52-53a

[Verse 3]
One day we will see face to face, Jesus
Is there a greater vision of grace
And in a moment, we shall be changed
On that day

Finally, we are encouraged by Paul not to lose heart, but to finish the race…

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  -2 Corinthians 4:17

[Verse 4]
And one day we’ll be free, free indeed, Jesus
One day all this struggle will cease
And we will see Your glory revealed
On that day


I’m a Grace-Amnesiac

Hi.  My name is Sam and I’m a grace-amnesiac.*

Recently, I’ve realized that I forget so much of the time.  I forget how sinful I am.  I forget how holy God is.  I forget how much grace I’m given every day.  I forget how much that grace cost.  And because I forget, I think that I’m better than other people I meet who fail and fall short.  They are just like me, but like I said, I’m a grace-amnesiac.  I forget.

The beautiful thing is that when I am reminded of God’s grace and live inside that same grace, my whole life is changed.  My whole life becomes an act of worship.  Author Mike Cosper writes,

…it all happens in union with Jesus, before the eyes and presence of a loving God, who by a miracle of boundless grace receives each and every act, though offered with mixed motives or frailty of heart, as a pleasant and acceptable offering…The whole mess of our lives is transformed in Christ, from corrupted to glorious, from ashes to beauty.**

So this week, look and see God’s grace in your life.  Don’t forget.

Extend that grace to others all around you.  Don’t forget.

Know that your whole life is now an act of worship because of receiving and giving grace.  Don’t forget.

This week, don’t be like me.  Don’t forget.

My name is Sam and I’m a grace-amnesiac.


* The phrase “grace-amnesiac” is from Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies.

** Quote from Mike Cosper in Rhythms of Grace, 77.

When I move toward the Table of the Lord, I say yes to all that Jesus Christ has done for me. And, when I stretch forth my hand to receive the broken bread, I confess that I cannot live by bread alone, that I am in great need of my Lord. When the cup is lifted to my lips and I hear the words, “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,” I say aloud, “Amen.” I affirm Christ with my heart, my mind, and my whole body; and all my senses—touch taste, smell, sight, and hearing—are evoked into worship

-Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals

“I make all things new.”  Here is the narrative in its fullness. The world and its history belongs to God, and he has been, is now, and will be making all things new. 

-Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals


Worship in the wilderness of our world is hard.

This past weekend, I led singing for a baptism service.  It was for a man named Troy.  Troy wanted to make a profession of faith about his love for Jesus, above all else. He also wanted to tell his kids that God is a better Father than he will ever be.  “So when I’m gone,” Troy said, “remember this day.”

Troy has an in-operable cancer in his esophagus and doesn’t know how much time he has.  And what time he does have left, he wants to live for Christ.

Yes.  Worship in the wilderness of our world is hard.

Worship isn’t just what we do on the weekend when we sing and listen to a sermon.  Remember when I wrote that our whole lives should be worship to the Lord?  Here is the reality of worship in the wilderness:   our lives DO reveal our worship, but many times it’s the worship of idols.  As the singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan, wrote,

“It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody…”

We serve our work…grasping for status and money.

We serve the idea of “love”…with someone who “completes me”.

We serve our kids…hoping they prove our parenthood.

And while those things are good gifts from God, they make terrible idols.  They promise the world and give you nothing in return.

So this Advent season, I’m following the example of Troy.  I want to serve God now.  I want to worship God now, instead of idols, in the wilderness of our world.

So I am listening for another song.  It’s the song of God that he sings over his children.  It’s a song I long to sing…a song I’m waiting to sing…

…but that’s for next week.

Happy Reformation Day

Happy Reformation Day!

This October 31st is Reformation Day.  I grew up in a home where we celebrated Reformation Day with pumpkins, costumes and orange T-shirts that said, “Happy Reformation Day!”

Yes, it was a little weird, but fun weird!

This year, we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation that made it possible to have another category of Christian.  Because of the Reformation, we are Protestants.  October 31st is the day we celebrate because that is the day a Catholic monk named Martin Luther, mailed or nailed (It’s not clear which one it was!) a list of 95 statements or thesis to the church authorities.  His main point was that salvation comes through faith in Jesus alone.  That got him called before a religious court to defend himself and eventually ex-communicated.

Now some will say that we shouldn’t celebrate the Reformation.  And honestly, there is some validity to that.  In addition to war and blood-shed between Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians, the Reformers themselves had some flaws.  For example,

  • Luther used brutal insults in addressing his opponents including Catholics, Jews and Anabaptists.  While Luther talked about Jews in connection with the bible and theology, some of his comments seem to be anti-Semitic.
  • Zwingli, like John Calvin, approved of the drowning of Felix Manz, a leader in the new Anabaptist movement.

As people who take regular trips to Israel and have Anabaptists in their background, this is troubling.  However, I think it’s possible to still celebrate the reformation for what it was.  It was a group of sinners who read the Bible and were changed.  That’s it.  One of Luther’s 95 Theses (You know, the list he supposedly nailed or mailed?) simply states, “The Church’s true treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Later, a year before he died, Luther wrote, “Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scripture.”

This is one of the main messages of the Reformation.  When God’s people read the Bible in their own language, God’s Spirit reforms lives.  The Reformation started 500 years ago, but it’s not something for us just to remember.  It’s something for us to live out.  We are to keep being reformed day after day by the power of God’s Spirit speaking through His Word.

That might even be a good reason to carve a pumpkin with Martin Luther’s face on it and wear an orange T-shirt.  Happy Reformation Day!


Jesus is Our Worship Leader

Last night I was driving home after a night of beautiful chaos…musicians, vocalists and techs coming together to work on a new song, “Your Name is Matchless.”  The lights of the passing cars reflected on the windshield as the line, “ransomed the captives / your name is matchless / beauty for ashes / your name is matchless”, circled in my brain.

It’s in those moments, that we again experience the gospel.  That is the gospel in a nutshell.  That is the “wonderful exchange” where Christ takes the ashes of our sinful, enslaved hearts and makes them beautiful.  That is the moment where he takes our unworthy prayers and wrinkled worship and offers them up to the Father as our high priest.  And we know that it is all an acceptable offering because of “Jesus’ sake”.  One author has said it this way,

Whatever else our worship is, it is our…amen to the worship of Christ…Christian worship is…our participation through the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father, in his vicarious life of worship and intercession.*

This might be a new idea for some of us.  We don’t think about it, but some of the songs we sing and some of the language we use makes it seem as if we are worshiping a God who is with us when we sing the right songs or play the right synth pad.   The truth is this:  we worship a God of grace who intercedes for us.  Hebrews says it this way,

…because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever.  Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him.  He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.  He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. (7:24-26)

Did you notice that the word “forever” is used more than once?  This isn’t something that was done only once.  Jesus only had to die once, but he continues to offer up our prayers and worship to make them pleasing through his sacrifice now and forever.

He is our worship leader.

He is our high priest.

As I pulled into my street and saw the the streetlights sending shadows up into the trees, I again heard the words of the song.  “…beauty for ashes / your name is matchless”

*Quote from James B. Torance, “Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace”